Not only did Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night go clear in show jumping today at The Fork to hold their lead in the Advanced A division on 19.4, but they’re also rocking the lowest individual score across all 11 divisions. The 25 mile-per-hour winds definitely upped the ante today, but Liz said “Blackie,” a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Deborah Halliday, handled the conditions well.
“He just had a little look at a couple jumps — not in a naughty way but he wouldn’t normally be spooky,” Liz said. “I thought (the course) was nicer than last year. The time was a bit easier as well. It was a little bit of a softer course than we had at Carolina, which maybe isn’t a bad thing going into Rolex. It’s nice for them to have a good confident jump round. All the distances rode well.”
Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery, a 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by the Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate, jumped clear to stay in second place on 25.6, with Allison Springer and Arthur, a 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by the Arthur Syndicate, also jumping clear to remain in third on 25.9.
Looking to the Advanced B division, overnight leaders Buck Davidson and The Apprentice had one rail down to slip to fifth place. Hannah Sue Burnett and Cooley Dream, an 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Cooley Dream LLC, and Katie Ruppel and her own Houdini both jumped clear rounds to move up to a tie for first place on scores of 29.7.
Houdini, a 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, also led after the first two phases in the Poplar Place CIC3* two weeks ago, and Katie said she was thrilled with how he has performed so far this weekend despite the windy, chilly weather, joking that “It only took me 10 years to learn how to ride him!”
On Houdini’s dressage test, Katie said, “He and I are both pretty accustomed to Florida now, so anything below 65 degrees makes us both a bit nutty. I didn’t think he was as good as he was two weeks ago, but his baseline work his getting better and better and better. He’s more reliable in the ring, and I think he is finally starting to understand his job.”
The horse can be very spooky, which Katie said made their round “a little exciting between the jumps at times. This weather doesn’t really suit him, but he’s really come along. Even when the conditions don’t suit him, he’s still really getting the job done. I’m really proud of him … He’s a hot little Thoroughbred. He’s got a ton of energy, so managing those things about him can be challenging, but I think I found a recipe that works.”
In the CIC2*, Doug Payne and Lysander came into show jumping with two rails in hand but didn’t need them, jumping a lovely clear round to remain in the lead on 37.0. “Big Leo,” a 9-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding he owns with Kristin Michaloski,” kept his composure beautifully in the wind — and then spooked badly at the triple while Doug was patting him after the round. Way to stick the landing, Doug!
“I was really proud of him. He handled the course really well. Show jumping is something we’ve been working on for quite a long time, so it’s rewarding to have him as confident as he was in the ring,” Doug said. “Today was one of the best rounds he’s ever done as far as feeling really comfortable with what’s being asked. He was as confident as he’s ever been.”
Doug has plenty of time to play with on cross country tomorrow, as he’s leading by 11 points, but he still plans to set a good pace out of the start box. “As far as his development, one of his weakest points on cross country is being able to move along and be able to come back for the next combination,” Doug said. “I could cruise around at a medium pace and be fine, but for his benefit we’ll see if we can’t push the envelope a bit.”
Boyd Martin and Shamwari 4, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by the Shamwari 4 Syndicate, jumped clear to move up to second place in the CIC2* on 48.1. Jennie Brannigan and I Bella, a 10-year-old Dutch/Holsteiner mare owned by Nina Gardner, put in a lovely round to crack the top three on 48.9.
Liz Halliday-Sharp is also still hanging onto the lead in the CIC* with Deniro Z, an 8-year-old Dutch gelding that jumped a green if adorable show jumping round this morning, trying his heart out the whole way. “He hasn’t been out in a while, but he jumped really well,” Liz said. “I was really proud of how all my horses jumped today.”
The top three in the CIC* remained unchanged from yesterday, with Sebastian, a 9-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred gelding owned by Edy Rameika, jumping clear to hold second on 38.0. Selena O’Hanlon and Zephyr, a 14-year-old gelding owned by Kelly Demp, also went clear to stay in third on 43.5.
Keep checking back to this report for more beautiful photos from Shannon Brinkman Photography, whose team kept diligently shooting photos on a very cold, windy day long after Chinch waved the white flag and went inside to thaw out. We have to send a huge shout out to all the officials, volunteers, grooms and hardworking people who persevered on a long day.
If you missed the report on the CIC3*, which Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair now lead, click here to catch up. Don’t miss Kate’s full course preview with analysis from a competitor’s perspective, and click here to catch up on all of EN’s coverage so far. Cross country starts at 8:30 a.m. and is running in this order tomorrow: CIC*, CIC3*, Advanced, CIC2*. Go Eventing.